Earlier this year, I reported how a handful of green activists at the University of Western Australia had nixed a $4 million policy centre just because it was vaguely associated with “Skeptical Environmentalist” Bjørn Lomborg.
Now they’re at it again, this time at Flinders University in South Australia, where the student association’s general secretary Grace Hill has vowed to lead students in killing the project.
The University of Western Australia was to host the think tank, to be aligned with Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre and work in areas ranging from food security to social justice, but reversed its decision amid howls of protest from students and staff.
Flinders University Student Association general secretary Grace Hill said students would launch a campaign immediately against having “a climate change denial centre on campus”.
“I’m pretty repulsed by it,” she said.
“At this stage there seems to be no student or staff consultation. It’s right-wing junk. It was excellent to see him booted out of WA so hopefully the same will happen here.
Name: Grace Hill
Position: General Secretary
Degree: Bachelor of Government and Public Management
What does the General Secretary do?
The General Secretary calls meetings of the Student Council, organises the Student Council’s correspondence, helps clubs, and organises the First Year subcommittee. Contact me if you are a concerned First Year student and you want to be part of the sub-committee.
What are the important issues that drive you?
Marxism, student rights, social justice.
There are at least two things that trouble me about this story—both of them depressingly symptomatic of our times.
The first is the modern media’s extraordinary willingness to treat fringe activists as if they were unbiased representatives of mainstream discourse.
I’ve never been to Flinders University, and I appreciate that students are a lot more PC than they were in my day. Even so, I’d hazard a guess that only a tiny minority of the students this self-described Marxist and social justice warrior supposedly represents as “General Secretary” of the “Student Council” share her rabid views. Most will rightly be preoccupied by more important stuff like getting drunk, getting stoned, and getting laid.
I don’t know whether it’s laziness or falling standards or ideology that leads respectable newspapers—in this case Australia’s Daily Telegraph—to give such prominence to these vexatious nonentities. But it certainly confers on them a power and respectability they really don’t deserve.
And the second troubling thing, related to the first, is what it tells us about the power of activism in the 21st century.
I blame social media.
In times past, damaged, angry, kill-joy types were generally quite isolated within the broader community and were consequently constrained from doing too much damage to anyone but themselves.
Occasionally, they’d find a soulmate and join the Baader Meinhof gang or the Manson family or fly off to Guyana to join the happy new family at the Rev Jones’s rainforest community. More usually, though, they’d be stuck safely in their bedsits writing gloomy poetry and unpublishable novels before either growing up and getting a job or realising the futility of it all and jumping off a bridge.
Not any more, though. Now, thanks to the Internet, these losers’ mawkish self-pity and peevish sense of grievance have been granted purpose and direction. Instead of bearing their troubles in lonely misery, they now have the power to inflict them on the rest of the world by dressing them up as noble causes, setting up a social media action campaign and corralling like-minded idiots into demanding that SOMETHING BE DONE.
And because normal people have better things to do then provide a counterweight to these campaigns, it’s the activists who end up winning because their strident, whiney voices are the only ones that are ever heard.
It’s possible, I suppose, that Flinders University will show more backbone in standing up for free speech than the University of Western Australia did. But given the state of academe generally in the Western world right now, I’d say the auguries aren’t good.
Here’s the irony: impeccably gay, vegetarian Bjørn Lomborg is not, as this silly half-baked Marxist student has tarred him, a man of the right but an avowed leftist.
Bjørn Lomborg believes the IPCC science 100%, and uses the “denier” term to distance himself from the scientific skeptics. It’s like cloaking himself in garlic, except it doesn’t work — true believers still hate him and seek to shut him down. Lomborg wants to stop fossil fuel subsidies, the arch-enemy in the believers world, and that’s not enough. Furthermore he wasn’t going to work at the Australian Consensus Centre and it wasn’t going to discuss the climate, but two steps of purification is not enough. Lomborg commits the unforgivable sin of wanting to spend enviro-gravy in ways that actually help the poor and protect the environment. He wants measurements and accountability.
Had Grace Hill done her homework—read round the subject, as people are supposed to do when they go to university so as, you know, to broaden their minds and avoid lazy, stereotypical thinking—she would have known this already.